The Best Fabric Shavers Restore Sweaters and Sofas to Like-New Status
Pesky pills are a thing of the past.
Published Jun 17, 2022 9:20 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
There’s a saying that good things come to those who wait, which may have some merit, but what about good things that come right away? If you’re a fan of low-effort, high-yield results when it comes to things like household chores, then allow us to introduce you to a wonderful device called the fabric shaver. Intended to get rid of those pesky pills that accumulate on your favorite sweaters and sofa, this little powerhouse is the secret to restoring fabric to almost new. Ahead, shop the best fabric shavers, ranging from rechargeable workhorses to combs you can use on the go, plus get expert advice on understanding why pilling happens in the first place.
- Best overall: Steamery Pilo No.2
- Best for on-the-go: Quince Cashmere Comb
- Best for multiple textures: Gleener Ultimate Fuzz Remover
- Best for large surfaces: Philips GC026 Fabric Shaver
- Best for pet parents: Package Free Lint and Pill Remover
Best Overall: Steamery Pilo No.2
Power Source: Rechargeable | Interchangeable head: No | Type: Shaver
What we like:
- Modern, minimal design
- 2-hour shaving time
- 6 razor blades
- Need to empty lint canister more often for larger objects
Why we chose it: A stylish-looking fabric shaver that—despite its hold-in-your-palm size—really packs a punch.
We recently took Steamery’s Pilo No.2 fabric shaver for a spin, and much to our writer’s delight, the device transformed not only her sweaters but her blankets and sofa, too. “A chair in my living room that was suffering from fluffy nubs was cleaned up in a matter of seconds,” market guru Cat Dash says. “And a superluxe cashmere throw was restored to its almost-new glory after a quick sweep with the Pilo’s six razor blades.” She also awarded points for its small size and sleek, minimal design. The one caveat? If you’re using the shaver on something large like an entire sofa or a throw blanket, you’ll have to stop and clean out the lint canister frequently. “The Pilo comes with a little brush that makes this maintenance pretty simple,” she notes.
Best for On-the-Go: Quince Cashmere Comb
Power Source: None | Interchangeable head: No | Type: Comb
What we like:
- Made from sustainably sourced wood
- Easy to store and travel with
- Best for sweaters
Why we chose it: For no-frills fabric shaving, this simple comb is a winner.
We tested this cashmere comb from Quince to get the full scope of shavers, from electronic models with razor blades to simpler options with no cords, batteries, or lint canisters. The comb is crafted from sustainably sourced beechwood and is notably lightweight and compact. We wasted no time putting it to use on our well-worn cashmere sweaters, and within a few moments they looked like new again. Since this comb isn’t designed with a canister to catch lint, you’ll want to keep a trash can close by to toss it out. And though it’s a great option for full-control de-pilling, if you have larger objects in mind, it might be smart to also invest in an electric fabric shaver to more efficiently get the job done.
Best for Multiple Textures: Gleener Ultimate Fuzz Remover
Power Source: None | Interchangeable head: 3 | Type: Razor
What we like:
- Built-in lint brush
- 3 interchangeable edges
- No batteries needed
- Need to keep track of heads
Why we chose it: Three interchangeable heads makes this electricity-free shaver a versatile pick.
Shaving fabric comes with inherent risks (namely, snagging the fabric), so finding a device that can safely get the job done is key. This kit comes with three interchangeable edges to address different degrees of fuzz balls (and to make sure you’re not sweeping the wrong kind of blade over your precious textiles). Edge one is for big, bulky fabrics like heavy-duty upholstery or chunky knit scarves. Edge two is for medium fabrics such as cashmere or finer wools. Lastly, edge three is intended for summer knits, silk blends, and other more delicate fabrics.
Best for Large Surfaces: Philips GC026 Fabric Shaver
Power Source: Batteries | Interchangeable head: No | Type: Shaver
What we like:
- Large blade surface
- Blades rotate up to 8,800 rounds per minute
- 3 sizes of holes in mesh
- Battery operated
- Plastic handle
Why we chose it: A crowd-pleasing shaver that works across several fabrics.
Positive anecdotal experiences from our industry friends made this brightly colored fabric shaver worth a callout. “It’s super-effective at gathering up all the unwanted bobbles on clothes and upholstery and easy to use, and there’s no fear of it creating holes when used on a flat surface,” says photographer and interior stylist Bonny Beattie. “It’s nice-looking and makes the best noise when it catches a bobble!” The large blade surface makes sweeping the shaver over larger surfaces (like a sofa) more efficient; plus there are three sizes of holes in the metal mesh, which helps to tackle different sizes of pills. The blade rotation operates quickly at 8,800 rounds per minute, and when you’re ready to discard your captured fuzz, the discard container slides off in the front. It’s battery operated, which is useful for a cord-free experience but means you’ll have to stock up on AAs.
Best for Pet Parents: Package Free Lint and Pill Remover
Power Source: None | Interchangeable head: No | Type: Comb
What we like:
- Especially good at removing pet hair
- Easy-to-use handle
- Plastic free
- Not for delicate pieces
Why we chose it: With its simple design and easy-to-grip handle, this dual-function shaver and lint roller will quickly become a household staple.
If your four-legged friend leaves behind a seemingly endless amount of hair, this lint and pill remover is the solution. It’s designed with a slim handle to make sweeping it across pillows and furniture easy-breezy, and the dual functionality of the pill remover helps get rid of those pesky balls that accumulate on your upholstery. A word of caution, however: If you’re searching for a fabric shaver to use on your more gentle textiles, this isn’t the best for that.
On Our Radar
We have our eye on the Popchose Fabric Shaver; the handle would be especially useful for longer de-pilling sessions on a large sofa or several blankets. It comes with six blades, plus a lint sticking brush and lint cleaning brush, for just-like-new kind of results.
How We Chose These Products
We leaned on Domino editor and industry-insider reviews, as well as firsthand experience with several fabric shavers, to inform our initial pick. Then we rounded out our list by researching dozens of models—both electric and not—from reliable brands in the knitwear and home spaces. From there, we spoke with YanYan cofounder Phyllis Chan to get a sense of ideal qualities in the best fabric shavers. We edited down our list to address the different ways you might use the device (on a work trip, over your upholstery, or even to pick up pet hair). They each offer a little something different but are consistent in terms of stylish design (no clunky electronics on this list!).
Our Shopping Checklist
So you’ve decided to begin your fabric shaver journey—we’re so pleased! (It’s good to take care of your nice things.) The first decision you should make is whether you want a rechargeable, battery-operated, or non-powered fabric shaver. For options that don’t rely on power, the comb and razor are the most common shapes. They’re good for quick and easy de-pilling where you have full control over the speed and pressure applied. With powered devices, look for details like the number of blades and interchangeable heads to inform your choice. Also, fabric shavers designed with built-in lint brushes will perform especially well with picking up hair.
“Pilling is when the fibers on the surface of a textile become tangled and make a little knot or ball,” Chan explains. The former Rag & Bone director of knitwear says that the main cause of pilling is friction plus wear and tear on the surface of the fabric in question. “It can happen to any fabric, but the amount of pilling usually depends on the material and the structure of the textile, or how the textile was treated in development,” she explains. “Textiles that are looser in structure and ‘fluffier’ like a wool sweater tend to pill more versus woven fabrics that use smooth fibers like silk or linen.”
She adds that whether a fabric is natural or synthetic will also determine how easy it is to remove pilling. “The best example is to imagine a wool sweater, and then a similar one that’s made of synthetics or a synthetic blend,” she says. “Both will pill, but natural fibers are weaker than synthetics, so the pill ball will come off easily (you can probably pick it off with your fingers). The pill on the synthetic may seem like a tangle on the surface that’s still stuck on the body.”
Shaving Heads and Blades
Some fabric shavers come with interchangeable heads to address different types of pilled fabrics. Keep an eye on the number of blades and the motor power, as this will impact the speed and performance of your fabric shaver (six blades and around 9,000 RPM seems to be the sweet spot among our favorite models).
Cleaning out and discarding lint is part of the fabric-shaving process, and a rather gratifying one at that. Since most of these devices are small, you should expect that you’ll need to empty out the canister frequently if you’re running it over a large surface.
Q: What’s the first thing I should know about using a fabric shaver?
Before powering up your shaver, Chan says you should evaluate how easy or difficult the pill is to remove with your fingers. “We use different pill removers for different fabrics. If there isn’t a significant amount of pilling and it’s a natural fiber like wool or cashmere and you’re just dealing with a section of the garment that gets a lot of wear (say the area on your hip), I recommend a fabric comb that can gently remove the little clump—this brings the least impact to the textile,” she says. “If you’re pressed for time, or there is significant pilling and especially if the pill balls don’t come off as easily, then I recommend a shaver. But you should spot-test a small section first.”
Q: I’m worried about damage. Can a fabric shaver ruin my upholstery?
“Definitely. This goes back to how easily the ball will come off. If you try to remove it, does it feel like it will snag? How thin is the textile? I’ve definitely experienced using a shaver on a garment and accidentally cutting a fiber I didn’t mean to,” Chan says. “Don’t press too hard into the textile when you are shaving, and don’t get too carried away if the textile is thin.” When in doubt, always spot-test somewhere less visible first to see how your fabric responds to the shaver.
Q: I’m ready to start shaving, but wait: What fabrics should I not use a fabric shaver on?
As a rule of thumb, Chan doesn’t recommend shavers or combs on fabrics that might snag, like rayon or silk: “Or even a knitted piece that’s marled a lot of yarns together, and one of them is a slippery rayon yarn. Those are pretty tricky.”
The Last Word
Sweaters and sofas rendered anew, your life will be better with one of the best fabric shavers involved. If you’ve lamented the short life span of a blanket due to pilling, don’t wait any longer and pick one up pronto. Our top pick is Steamery’s Pilo No.2 because it hits all the marks—the design is sleek and modern, the size makes it easy to store and travel with, and perhaps most important, it’s impressively effective at removing pilling.